During a Wednesday appearance on ESPN New York, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski repeated his stance that a gay teammate would be accepted in his locker room.
"I got this question before, about a year ago, and I basically will say the same answer that I did a year ago," Gronkowski said. "You've got to accept the player. Everyone has their own ways to live their life and as long as he's respecting me, keeping distance, respecting myself, I'll respect him back.
"If he's being a great teammate and he's a guy on the field doing a great job, well then you've got nothing to complain about. He's another teammate and another friend."
The issue of equality has ramped up this offseason, with Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com reporting earlier this week that a current gay player in the National Football League is contemplating coming out. NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth told Baltimore radio station WSNT that a gay player coming out during his career is inevitable and would lead to more gay players coming out.
"It doesn’t have to be one player," Foxworth said (via ProFootballTalk). "When one player comes out, multiple players will come out, because they are in our league right now."
One reason why the atmosphere for a current player to come out has never been better is that even the most staunch opponents of the issue of same-sex marriage now regard marriage equality as being inevitable. Knocking down that wall figures to lead more walls coming down, including in the locker rooms and clubhouses in professional sports. Last week, several current NFL players filed an "Athlete's Brief" to the Supreme Court case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, which challenges California's Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage. Among the players named in that brief were free agent linebacker Scott Fujita, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.
"Football is a macho sport, but we’ve found many players to be accepting. We hope to create an environment where a player who is gay will be treated like any other teammate," Fujita said in a statement last week.
Other players who support the "Athlete's Brief" include Chicago Bears punter Adam Podlesh, Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack, linebackers Chris Gocong and D'Qwell Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin, free agent offensive tackle Eric Winston, as well as Foxworth, a former NFL cornerback, and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith.
Former San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Kwame Harris, who was publicly outed following a domestic altercation with his boyfriend in January, told CNN that he wishes he had come out during his playing career.
"The cost was great not speak candidly open about myself in complete manner," Harris said via Mike Foss of the USA Today. "If I could have done it differently, I would have hoped I found the strength [to come out]."